Which Modern Artist Is Better—Monet or Manet?

Claude Monet was born in Paris, France in 1840, but he spent his early life near the beaches at Normandy. At the age of 11 Monet began creating charcoal caricatures, which he sold for 10 to 20 francs apiece. When Monet was a teenager, he met fellow painter Eugéne Boudin, who taught Monet to use oil paints. Boudin also taught Monet en plein air techniques for painting.

When Monet moved back to Paris, he soon visited the Louvre, where he saw other painters copying works of the Old Masters. But, rather than do this, Monet opted for painting what he saw outdoors. About this time, Monet met fellow painter, Édouard Manet.

In 1861, Monet joined the Army for seven years, eventually suffering from typhoid fever, until his aunt, Marie-Jeanne Lecadre, now his guardian after his mother had died, helped get him released from military service after only two years. Then his aunt enrolled him in art school. However, Monet didn’t like the curriculum, which emphasized traditional painting. Instead, Monet became a student of Charles Gleyre and also joined forces with painters such as Renoir and Pissarro, forming the nucleus of the movement that came to be known as Impressionism.

With the outbreak of the Franco-Prussian War in 1870, Monet fled to England, where he studied the landscape paintings of John Constable and Joseph Mallord William Turner. Interestingly, Turner is sometimes considered the first modern artist.

Then, in 1872, Monet painted Impression, Sunrise, which he showed at the first Impressionism exhibition in 1874. Art critic, Louis Leroy, though “impressed” with Monet’s piece, disparaged it nevertheless, coining the term “Impressionism.” About Monet’s unusual work, Leroy wrote, “A preliminary drawing for a wallpaper pattern is more finished than this seascape.”

Of course, the sketchiness of Impressionism is the point! And the movement soon adopted Leroy’s insulting term.

Monet and his family lived in a state of poverty for most of Monet’s life until he moved to Giverny in northwestern France during 1883, after which time his dealer, Paul Durand-Ruel, began selling many of his paintings, improving Monet’s standard of living considerably. Perhaps because of Monet’s relative wealth, he began working on his “series” paintings, in which a subject was painted during different periods of light, an example of which was Haystacks. Another was Water Lilies, which depicted about 250 oil paintings of the water flora found in Monet’s garden at Giverny.

Late in life, Monet suffered from cataracts, eventually having two operations for the disease, yet he managed to keep painting. Monet died of cancer in 1926 at the age of 86. He is regarded as the most prolific painter of Impressionism. His work sells for millions as well; for instance, Nymphéas, from the Water Lilies series, sold for $36 million USD in 2007.

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